Nov 23, 2015

Pain and What It is Telling Us

Dr. Oliver Sacks tells a remarkable story of seeing a patient who had headaches every Sunday.  From his description of the symptoms, the diagnosis was migraines.  Dr. Sacks prescribed medication for him to take as soon as he felt the onset of symptoms.

A week later, the patient called, all excited, to tell him that the medicine worked and he had no headache.

A week later, he called the patient to hear how he was doing.  Interestingly, the patient said the medicine worked but now he was bored.  "Every Sunday for the previous fifteen years had been devoted to migraines, his family would come, he was the center of attention, and now he missed all of that."

A week later, he got an emergency phone call from the man's sister about her brother having a severe asthma attack.  When he visited his patient, the man told him that he had had asthma attacks as a child but that they had been "replaced" by migraines.

When the doctor suggested giving him something for the asthma, the man wisely said, "No, I'll just get something else.  Do you think I need to be ill on Sundays?"

The doctor and patient spent two months discussing this and as they did, the man's migraines became fewer and fewer and disappeared.

This is a perfect illustration of Dr. Sarno's approach to a lot of pain symptoms.  Look him up online and you'll see his books and what people have to say about him.  His approach is that in the overwhelming majority of cases, "back pain is a symptom created by the unconscious mind as a distraction to aid in the repression of strong unconscious emotional issues." That means, the physical pain serves an emotional need.  If you confront the emotional need directly, the physical pain vanishes.  This works with other pain too like shoulder pain, etc. It should be noted that Dr. Sarno will physically examine a patient to determine that there is no real, physical problem.

It should be noted that last I heard, there is a R' Elya Katz in Boro Park who presents Dr. Sarno's approach for free, 718-232-2741, at certain times.


  1. This is interesting because a woman in our community who is usually active and busy and very intellectual, has such serious back pain now that the community ladies have been making supper for her. Her doctor wants to operate but she is worried about an unmarried son in his early thirties. She does not want to be out of commission if he needs her in his quest for marriage. I told the woman arranging meals to take her to an osteopath because this lady is so afraid of having surgery and I can't blame her. Back surgery rarely cures anything. I think if they can get her on a plane, she should try this.

  2. She can simply read the book. For many, that's enough.